Overcoming myself during a pandemic

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Gabriela Leon U., a medical graduate from Panama City, Panama, and current NMO President of the International Federation of Medical Student’s Associations – Panama (IFMSA Panama). She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. […] Beautiful people do not just happen.” – Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Quarantine started in mid-March 2020; the news broke out halfway through the semester, we had just begun clinical rotations. I thought it was going to be easy, online classes didn’t sound so bad, and I had figured I would have more free time. I was right, I found myself spending more time alone in my room watching webinars, studying, and attending online classes at random hours. Two months of quarantine had passed already, and I thought, “Well, this is going to be just fine.” Wrong. I was slowly becoming very isolated, and suddenly, everything began to crumble in my life even though the world was paralyzed. I became frustrated with little thing, distant with my loved ones, and found myself in a big pitch-dark hole of self-doubt. “Is this life of devotion and stress what I really want?” “Will I ever accomplish the dreams I had as a kid?” “Am I happy?”

Finals’ period was around the corner, and I wasn’t feeling like my usual self anymore. My body was against everything my mind wanted and my emotions were like a box of chocolates, I never knew what I was going to get. I could suddenly spend most of the day lying down and looking at my phone to prevent my mind from wandering, I didn’t want to talk to anyone because talking about it made it hurt… My mind was cloudy and foggy, just like my soul. I couldn’t think ahead. I suddenly wanted to quit.

Healing is a process that won’t happen overnight, it takes being completely honest with yourself, which is very confronting and scary. “What do I want?” “How do I feel?”. I allowed myself to feel. I forced myself to talk about things through journaling and with loved ones, writing helped me appreciate the good days and comforted me on the bad ones, even cleaning my room felt like progress. I faced my emotions and thoughts, those that once were bottled up became free flowing like a river, and just as the problems started to flow… the pain slowly (but steadily) started to fade. I focused solely on the present and figured that I could only change the things I can control, and that the future isn’t one of them. When my mindset changed, I had found myself again.

This pandemic took me through a journey of self-discovery, growth, and self-acceptance. We’re all going through our journeys in life, but we must never forget to give ourselves time and love. The moment you choose to listen to your soul and make choices based on your heart’s desires, you will set yourself free. Say it out loud as many times as you need to: “I am perfectly okay. I will get through this!”

About the author

Gabriela Leon U. is a medical graduate from Panama City, Panama, and current NMO President of the International Federation of Medical Student’s Associations – Panama (IFMSA Panama). A strong believer in the power of youth, engaged in global health, and advocates in normalizing being vulnerable and restoring humanity in her community and in the world.

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